Maryland Del. Shelly Hettleman said a man yelled “Heil Hitler!” at her from his car while she was campaigning in Baltimore County on Monday.
Hettleman, a Democrat from Baltimore County, said the incident happened about 7:30 a.m. across from Green Spring Station shopping center. A man stopped his car about five feet away from her, stuck his head out the window and shouted “Heil Hitler! You don't represent us!” along with several expletives, she said.
“He screamed with an anger that was so palpable on a scale of 0 to 100, he started with 100,” she said.
Hettleman, who is Jewish, stood stunned with her husband, Jeff Hettleman, and campaign manager Matt Peterson.
Peterson, 24, called it “surreal” and the first time he had experienced anti-Semitism first-hand as a Jewish person growing up in Baltimore County.
“Even in the progressive environment of Baltimore County, this happens,” Peterson said. “Until you experience it yourself, you don’t really realize it’s out there.”
Baltimore County Del. Dana Stein stood campaigning across a busy intersection from Hettleman and told The Sun that he saw and heard someone yelling at her and her husband, but that he could not decipher what was said over the traffic.
Hettleman’s husband wrote about the experience on Facebook.
“The proximity, anger and intensity with which this person yelled at us was scary,” he wrote, adding that it spoke to a political climate where it is “increasingly acceptable to sew division, spew hate or yell at others.”
Hettleman said the driver, who was white and in his 30s or 40s, drove away and didn’t return. She wrote about her experience for the Jewish publication JMore, reported it to the Baltimore Jewish Council and plans to report it to the Baltimore County Police, though she and others were too shocked to take down a license plate number, she said.
Baltimore County police spokesperson Shawn Vinson said police would report it as a bias incident to the Maryland State Police, which records both hate crimes and incidents across the state.
Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Howard Libit described it as the “most extreme” example of anti-Semitism he’s heard in recent months.
“It seems to be an example of the worsening of political debate in the last two years,” he said. “People are saying things that are much more personal and offensive.”
Libit pointed to the Anti-Defamation League’s publication this February that reported a 60 percent surge in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 over 2016, the largest single-year increase on record since the ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.
The report highlighted about a dozen incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in Maryland where suspects painted swastikas on homes, schools, or businesses and handed out anti-Jewish flyers.
Anti-Jewish incidents reported to police across Maryland have steadily increased since 2015, when 46 incidents were reported to police, according to Maryland State Police “Hate Bias Incident Report” records.
There were 61 reports of anti-Jewish incidents sent to police across Maryland in 2017. That marked an increase of more than 15 percent over the reports sent to police in 2016. The reports reflect all incidents of hate or bias sent to police and do not necessary mean a crime has been committed.
Most of the reports over the last two years involved vandalism of buildings and homes with swastikas.